Residents still speaking out on turbines; Meeting draws concerns over military aviation, business practices
Effects on nearby military aviation, business practices described as shady and potential legal evasions were on the minds of those opposed to a wind energy project in Cass County Monday.
Residents once again packed a Cass County Commissioners meeting Jan. 16 to voice their views on as many as 150 wind turbines about 600 feet tall being proposed for the northern part of the county. Renewable Energy Systems, or RES, based in the United Kingdom, is behind the project.
“…[A] tech-based 2018 reenactment of what happened between England and the United States in 1776 and again in 1812 is happening right here in our county,” Tia Justice, Logansport, said during the commissioners meeting. “We’ve been bushwhacked.”
She called the project’s lack of an application thus far for approval from the Federal Aviation Administration unethical and accused RES and the commissioners of delaying the application in an attempt to “railroad” the project forward.
Justice said the turbines would have detrimental effects on Grissom Air Reserve Base in neighboring Miami County, where RES also plans to erect turbines. She said the structures would interfere with the base’s low-altitude training.
But Douglas Hays, public affairs operations chief for Grissom ARB, said by phone Tuesday that the base is a refueling unit.
“Our job is not for low-altitude flights,” he said, explaining the base’s mission is to “provide aerial refueling support around the globe to enhance the Air Force’s mission.”
Hays said the effect of the proposed wind turbines on the base has not been determined because RES has yet to file its application with the FAA. When it does, Hays said an aeronautical airport assessment will be completed, which consists of an internal review that, if needed, would be elevated to the Department of Defense Siting Clearinghouse at the Pentagon for an informal review. If merited, the DoD would escalate the request to the North American Aerospace Defense Command for a formal review, he continued.
“This formal review will allow data to be injected into a modeling program to simulate the turbines’ effect on our radar and show how much coverage we could lose to any given project,” Hays said.
Judy Kellems, Lucerne, who owns farm ground in Cass and Fulton counties, recalled at Monday’s commissioners meeting her encounter with a RES salesman last April. She described the salesman’s tactics as “shady and deceptive.” The salesman responded to her opposition with attempts to make her feel inferior and exaggerated support for the project, she said. Kellems added the salesman also suggested her late parents expressed interest in a previous wind energy proposal before they passed away, a claim she refuted.
Lora Redweik, Twelve Mile, said legal representation opponents have hired has indicated to her there are situations that could potentially negate landowners’ contracts with RES. Misrepresentation on the part of the developer and withholding key information are two examples, Redweik said before urging residents who have signed leases with RES but came to regret it to seek legal counsel.
“You may have legal grounds to get out of your contract if a RES employee misled you with false information,” Redweik said. “This is a serious offense and this type of behavior and this type of company is not welcome in Cass County.”
Kyle Reed, Royal Center, told commissioners that the petition calling for half-mile setbacks between residences and industrial wind turbines in Cass County is up to 1,485 signatures. The county’s current residential setbacks require at least 1,000 feet and RES has indicated its residential setbacks for the project will be at least 1,500 feet.
Among Leslie Murray’s concerns expressed at the meeting were how wind turbines affect groundwater both as they’re being installed and after they’re in operation.
Elizabeth Thomas, Twelve Mile, referred to email correspondence between White County Building & Planning Executive Director Colin Betts and Fulton County Plan Commission Executive Director Casi Cowles in which Betts explains White County chose half-mile wind turbine setbacks from rivers because closer distances would be “detrimental to property values.”
Cass County’s wind energy ordinance, which drew from White County’s, has the same river setback.
If half-mile setbacks are in place to protect riverfront property values, Thomas asked why that same understanding and protection wasn’t being extended to all properties.
Deidra Dodt, Royal Center, asked why elected officials don’t attempt to refute opponents’ data, calm fears or share what they may believe to be the benefits of the proposed turbines.
Jeff Zimmer, Royal Center, was interrupted by applause from the audience when he told commissioners that wind turbines should be banned in the county.
“Everybody talks about the money coming to the county,” Zimmer said. “Cass County’s got along all these years without wind turbines, I’m sure if wind turbines don’t come to Cass County, we’ll get along just fine without them.”
A RES representative could not be reached for comment by press time.
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